Thousands of travelers headed for Washington, D.C., hoping to witness history in the making at Obama's Inauguration won't be the only ones flocking to the nation's capital with a firm purpose this week.
Two days after President-elect Barack Obama is sworn into office on Capitol Hill, droves of pro-life advocates will be marking their own history with a rally and march to commemorate the 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling.
The annual March for Life, one of the largest demonstrations held in Washington, D.C., is expected to draw as many as 200,000 supporters on Jan. 22.
Pro-life advocates have stepped up their mobilization for this year's event, bracing for an administration that is likely to endorse stronger abortion rights, they fear.
“Barack Obama promised that his first act as president would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, a radical bill that would nullify every pro-life law from parental notification laws to bans on federal funding of abortion," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America.
Under outgoing President George W. Bush, the pro-life movement gained strides. He signed legislation that extended legal protection to children who survive an abortion attempt, a ban on partial-birth abortion and an act that allowed authorities to charge a person who causes death or injury to a child in the womb with a separate offense in addition to any charges relating to the mother.
"These common-sense regulations passed over the last 36 years enjoy a majority of support among Americans and save lives by reducing the number of abortions," Wright noted.
Wright's group, a Christian-based women's advocacy group in Washington, plans to hand out information to pro-life marchers this week on how they can oppose FOCA. The day after the rally, the organization will host a FOCA Lobby Day, calling on supporters to lobby congressmen – in person or by phone – urging them to oppose the bill.
In cities around the nation, local pro-life groups are also worried about the bill that will soon to go before Congress.
In Dallas, where a march and prayer service was held on Saturday, pro-life advocates are worried that FOCA could deal a blow to state laws that restrict abortion – possible overriding them.
"Then bills in Texas — parental notification, the 24-hour wait, true information before the surgical procedure is concerned — will they stand?" wonders Cathie Adams, president of the Dallas-based Republican group Texas Eagle Forum, according to the Star-Telegram.
The same sentiment was expressed at rallies held in other cities, from Raleigh, N.C., to Birmingham, Ala., over the weekend.
In San Francisco, crowds of 25,000 to 30,000 will gather for March for Life's sister event, Walk for Life West Coast, scheduled for Jan. 24. Event organizers say they expect a record turnout this year.
Although Obama took home 61 percent of the votes in California, organizers of Walk for Life say his presidential victory does not mean Americans agree with Obama's policies on abortion.
"Americans voted for our new president because they do care about justice - they wanted to shut the door permanently on the prejudice and injustice that is a blemish on our history," said Walk for Life co-chair Dolores Meehan.
"We hope President-elect Obama will bring the concern for Americans' well-being that he is showing in tackling the economy to bring justice to women in crisis pregnancies and to the unborn - the most vulnerable of all."
On Sunday, churches held services to observe National Sanctity of Human Life Day, held every Jan. 18. In his proclamation for the event, Bush highlighted the nation's role in building a culture of life.
"America is a caring Nation, and our values should guide us as we harness the gifts of science. In our zeal for new treatments and cures, we must never abandon our fundamental morals. We can achieve the great breakthroughs we all seek with reverence for the gift of life," he stated.
With the Supreme Court being one justice shy of the five needed to overturn the 1973 decision, Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of American Center for Law and Justice, said he doesn't believe it's realistic to overturn Roe v. Wade in this Administration.
Speaking with National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" last week, Sekulow anticipated that pro-life advocates might instead shift their strategy to ways that place restrictions on abortions or reduce the number of abortions.
"I think you're going to see more and more states put those kind of requirements into their abortion regulations, which say that, look, before the abortion takes place a sonogram should be provided to the mother," he said.